TFA: A Failed Vision

by Mark Naison | special to NewBlackMan

Every spring without fail, a Teach for America recruiter approaches me and asks if they can come to my classes and recruit students for TFA, and every year, without fail, I give them the same answer: “Sorry. Until Teach for America changes its objective to training lifetime educators and raises the time commitment to five years rather than two, I will not allow TFA to recruit in my classes. The idea of sending talented students into schools in high poverty areas and then after two years, encouraging them to pursue careers in finance, law, and business in the hope that they will then advocate for educational equity rubs me the wrong way”

It was not always thus. Ten years ago, when a Teach for American recruiter first approached me, I was enthusiastic about the idea of recruiting my most idealistic and talented students for work in high poverty schools and allowed the TFA representative to make presentations in my classes, which are filled with Urban Studies and African American Studies majors. Several of my best students applied, all of whom wanted to become teachers, and several of whom came from the kind of high poverty neighborhoods TFA proposed to send its recruits to teach in.

Not one of them was accepted!


Peter Falk "Columbo": R.I.P.

LOS ANGELES – Peter Falk, the stage and movie actor who became identified as the squinty, rumpled detective in "Columbo," which spanned 30 years in prime-time television and established one of the most iconic characters in movie police work, has died. He was 83.

Falk died Thursday in his Beverly Hills home, according to a statement released Friday by family friend Larry Larson.

In a court document filed in December 2008, Falk's daughter Catherine Falk said her father was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Friday Bonus Cartoon Fun: No Nukes Edition

Friday Cartoon Fun: War!! Good God, Y'all!! Edition

Do Principals Create Bad Teachers?

What if a Principal Allows Teachers to be "Bad"?

The rhetoric about "bad teachers" may never go away -- in part some teachers will always perform poorly, act irresponsibly, and so on (just as there are poor performers and irresponsible people in all professions and fields). That said, what bothers me most about the rhetoric is that it continually oversimplifies the problem. Too many commentators seem to assume that bad people magically pop up in schools to torture principals and belittle children. But reality is more complex.

One situation that has arisen in numerous anecdotes I've heard from teachers is that a Principal will allow selected teachers (often their friends) to behave irresponsibly or worse. Examples include showing up late, parking illegally, dressing inappropriately, eating meals with the Principal instead of teaching, leaving other people in charge of their class while they run errands, and, in at least one instance, abusing children.

Are "bad teachers" a problem in these schools? Absolutely -- and they should be dealt with -- but not following the script we normally read (teacher is bad, principal wants to fire him/her, union steps in). In these cases, the story I hear is that a "bad" principal allows a few teachers to do as they please while the rest of the teachers stew in outrage and cower in fear.

Did the Principal in these situations make these teachers bad? It's not quite that simple. But these Principals have certainly negatively impacted the performance of a few teachers while subsequently damaging the climate and performance of the school as a whole.

Situations like these are why I worry more about the extent of the damage done by irresponsible Principals than I do about the damage done by irresponsible teachers.


Clarence Clemons, "The Big Man": R.I.P.

Clarence Anicholas Clemons, Jr. (January 11, 1942 – June 18, 2011), also known as The Big Man, was an American musician and actor. From 1972 until his death, he was a prominent member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, playing the saxophone. He released several solo albums and in 1985 had a hit single with "You're a Friend of Mine", a duet with Jackson Browne. As a guest musician he also featured on Aretha Franklin's classic "Freeway of Love" and on Twisted Sister's "Be Chrool to Your Scuel" as well as performing in concert with The Grateful Dead and Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. As an actor Clemons featured in several films, including New York, New York and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. He also made cameo appearances in several TV series, including Diff'rent Strokes, Nash Bridges, The Simpsons and The Wire. Together with his television writer friend Don Reo he published his autobiography, Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales, in 2009. Clemons suffered a stroke on June 12, 2011 and died of complications from the stroke on June 18. He was 69 years old.

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